Member of Parliament (MP) Tom Watson Friday urged Scotland Yard to open a criminal investigation into allegations that News International Chairman James Murdoch misled Parliament in testimony earlier this week on the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
Murdoch denies the charge.
According to various reports, British Prime Minister David Cameron shares Watson's desire to get the Murdochs backe before the committee. Last week, Cameron announced the members of a six-person indepednent panel conducting an inquiry into the ethics of the British press in general and any unlawful or improper conduct by News of the World parent News International or any other newspapers.
Watson told CNN Friday that if a statement by a former News of the World lawyer and editor is accurate, Murdoch did indeed mislead Parliament by indicating he was not familiar with an e-mail that indicated there was mroe widespread criminal wrongdoing -- illegal hacking -- at the company back in 2008 that he failed to report to the police, Murdoch also settled a civil case with a crime victim for $700,000 pounds, or ten times what he would have been expected to get in a civil trial.
That agreement came with a confidentiality clase, which Watson said could mean Murdoch was trying to buy the victim's silence, which is illegal in Britain.
Watson was one of the toughest questioners during James and Rupert Murdoch's testimony before a special committee, including on the issue of the payment. James Murdoch told Watson that the payment was not so high to keep it confidential, but because of the amount of damages they were advised they would have to pay if the case went to trial.
Watson said he expected James Murdoch and the editor and lawyer who alleged James did not have his facts straight to be called in front of the committee to explain the disparity in their recollections of events. "What we now know is that either the former editor of the paper and the company lawyer are telling the truth or James Murdoch is. Both of them cannot be right. If the lawyer is right, it's a very, very serious situation. That's why I think it is urgent and that's why I referred it to the head of the investigation earlier today," he told CNN in an interview.
"I stand by my testimony to the select committee," James Murdoch said in a statement on the company's Web site Thursday (July 21).
In the U.S. a handful of legislators have called for investigations into whether the hacking scandal extended to this country or whether alleged payoffs to British police, if true, violates U.S. laws against bribing government officials--New Corp. is incorporated in the U.S.
The FBI is investigating whether News Corp. hacked into 9/11 victims' e-mails, but Rupert Murdoch said this week that he knew of no evidence that was the case, and that the FBI had not turned up any evidence, either.